Sunday, July 3, 2022

Trail Trees, Part II

by Rebecca May Davie

Welcome back to the discussion about Trail Trees. Native Americans molded these trees to point travelers in a certain direction. They could lead toward meeting grounds, burial sites, water, or other important locations. If you missed the first installment, find the post here: Trail Trees Part 1.  

In addition to Trail Trees and Horse and Rider Trail Trees presented last time, there are Message Trees. The bend in these trees is less severe. Instead of packing the nose that would give information, messages hide in a carved hollow. For example, the Creek used red sticks to convey information. The holes were convenient places to hide correspondence. Others passing by could be unaware of the secret cache.

Message Tree GA
Near village sites and water, there is another possible type of Message Tree. These trees have multitudes of knots circling the tree from base to summit. The meaning is unknown. We wonder if we have one such tree on our property. See the image at left. It appears old enough… but we may never have confirmation. I wish I had taken a photo before the leaves unfurled. Yet, you can just distinguish the multitudes of burls peeking out from under the foliage.

Treasure Trees are yet another variation. These trees bend toward the ground to indicate a buried treasure. Or the bend points toward a cave. In Georgia, before the Cherokee were forcibly removed, they mined gold. To save what belonged to their clans, the resourceful groups found locations to conceal their wealth, hoping to return one day to reclaim their bounty.

Tree with mountain and bird carvings
There are also straight trees with carvings. I read a book that claimed the Cherokee also left messages on trees to show where they buried treasure or to mark events or trails. Beech trees seem to be the preferred species. A family member and I are not in agreement about this tree you see on the right. Does it contain an image? It is of an age; however, the markings may just be a pattern in the bark. My imagination would rather believe it is indeed a message. What do you think? Do you see the mountain and a bird up above?

One could argue that these Native Americans were among the first on the continent to use codes. Secret codes expressed via trees. Fascinating!

Speaking of trees in question… I wonder if this could be a Trail Tree. See the image below. It looks like it has a nose - not the deer's nose. :0) Look above the deer. 

We talked about what and why, how about …


Possible Trail Tree with deer beneath
It might be difficult to ascertain if a tree is in fact a Trail Tree and if so, which kind. I found this resource while researching the trees we discovered. If you think you might have a veritable find, fill out a form on the Mountain Stewards website. They are collecting data and seeking funding to protect these paragons of history. 

For more information: Indian Trail Trees by Elaine Jordan. It is out of print, but you may be able to find a copy online or at your local library. Dennis Downes studied these trees and their meanings for over 30 years. Check out his website or download his book, Native American Trail Marker Trees: Marking Paths Through the Wilderness. 

As you can tell, it can be fun, trying to find these trees. When you are in the woods the next time, pay attention. You may discover a Trail Tree or two. Happy hunting!

                     As a child, Rebecca loved to write. She nurtured this skill as                             an educator and later as an editor for an online magazine. 

Rebecca then joined the Cru Ministry - NBS2GO/Neighbor Bible Studies 2GO, at its inception. As the YouVersion Content Creator, she uploaded over 75 plans on the app.

Rebecca lives in the mountains with her husband, the youngest of their two sons, and a rescued dog named Ranger. If it were up to her, she would be traveling - right now. As a member of ACFW, FHLCW, Jerry’s Guild, and Hope*Writers, Rebecca learns the craft of fiction while networking with a host of generous writers. She is working on her first fiction novel. This story unfolds from the 1830s in Northern Georgia.
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  1. Thanks for continuing this series on marked trees. It's very interesting, and if you have a fertile imagination you can see them everywhere!

    1. Fertile imagination. :o) So true and a funny pun!

  2. Thank you. We have lots of trees in our Georgia yard. I wonder if we have one. Interesting.

    1. Quite a possibility. If you find one, come back and let us know. Enjoy the adventure!